Clinical chemistry

Meconium nicotine and metabolites by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry: differentiation of passive and nonexposure and correlation with neonatal outcome measures.

PMID 18845770


Meconium analysis is a diagnostically sensitive and objective alternative to maternal self-report for detecting prenatal tobacco exposure. Nicotine and metabolite disposition in meconium is poorly characterized, and correlation of analytes' concentrations with neonatal outcomes is unexplored. Our objectives were to quantify nicotine, cotinine, trans-3'-hydroxycotinine (OH-cotinine), nornicotine, norcotinine, and glucuronide concentrations in meconium, identify the best biomarkers of in utero tobacco exposure, compare meconium concentrations of tobacco-exposed and nonexposed neonates, and investigate concentration-outcome relationships. We quantified concentrations of nicotine and 4 metabolites with and without hydrolysis simultaneously in meconium from tobacco-exposed and nonexposed neonates by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. We compared meconium concentrations to birth weight, length, head circumference, gestational age, and 1- and 5-min Apgar scores. Nicotine, cotinine, and OH-cotinine were the most prevalent and abundant meconium tobacco biomarkers and were found in higher concentrations in tobacco-exposed neonates. Whereas cotinine and OH-cotinine are glucuronide bound, performing the lengthy and costly enzymatic hydrolysis identified only 1 additional positive specimen. Unconjugated nicotine, cotinine, or OH-cotinine meconium concentration >10 ng/g most accurately discriminated active from passive and nonexposed neonates. There was no significant correlation between quantitative nicotine and metabolite meconium results and neonatal outcomes, although presence of a nicotine biomarker predicted decreased head circumference. Unconjugated nicotine, cotinine, and OH-cotinine should be analyzed in meconium to detect in utero tobacco exposure, as approximately 25% of positive specimens did not contain cotinine. Immunoassay testing monitoring cotinine only would underestimate the prevalence of prenatal tobacco exposure.